Mend Physical Therapy Blog and Injury Information

How Long Should I Use The Foam Roller For Pain Or Soreness?

April 6, 2020


Rolling is a popular soft tissue intervention for range of motion, performance, and pain relief. Participants have a wide variety of tools to choose from including foam rollers, lacrosse balls, and sticks. Each tool is designed to target an individual sore or painful spot (trigger point) in a given muscle or a tight long muscle such as the quadricep, hamstring, or calf. The short term range of motion gains are attributed to an improvement in a muscle’s stretch tolerance versus a change in the make up of the muscle. In addition, this neurological mechanism along with improvements in circulation are responsible for the pain relief found after rolling sore or painful muscles. A recent review of the evidence helps guide participants on how long they should roll for optimal pain relief.

Authors in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy reviewed 22 studies on the effects of foam rolling on pain/soreness, sports performance, and range of motion/mobility (Hughes et al. 2019). Subjects tallied 328, 241, and 398 for the aforementioned groups, respectively. Authors reported a minimum of 90 seconds was required for pain and soreness with relief, but additional benefits could be found with longer durations. This relationship was not well established and there likely is a point of diminishing returns with longer bouts of rolling but additional research is needed. They also reported short term benefits of range of motion and performance, but no long term results were found. Patients are encouraged to roll for 90 seconds for soreness and pain relief along larger muscle groups but utilize shorter durations for smaller muscle groups.

Click Here to learn which soft tissue treatment is best for your symptoms